Clockwork Orange

Clockwork Orange  (Martin McCreadie)
Clockwork Orange (Martin McCreadie)

“Come and get one in the yarbles, if you have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary since the original publication of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. Looking for a good way to celebrate? The London based theatre group Action to the Word is in Brisbane with their high-voltage all-male stage adaptation of this modern classic.

Since its first publication, A Clockwork Orange has become an irrefutable and intrinsic part of popular culture, and as such may be seen by some as sacred ground. But rest assured my zealous droogs, if you are fond of the book or Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 movie adaptation, then you will revel in this interpretation.

This may be seen as a somewhat controversial adaptation, having an all-male cast, but that might be the only negative criticism, and perhaps baseless at that. With an all-male troop, the female roles are played by male actors–this much is true, but the production remains true to the text. One just needs to viddy (see) with a little imagination. Remember, Shakespearean players were always all-male troops. Some scenes literally do get danced over, and these transitions may make little sense to anyone who is not thoroughly familiar with the story already, but there is a certain need to set the stage.

The alpha droog, young Alex DeLarge, is played by Martin McCreadie, who gives the kind of performance that, all else withstanding, justifies seeing this production. At times, it is almost as though McCreadie is channelling a young Malcolm McDowell, the mannerisms and even the accent are so close. There’s even a passing resemblance. McCreadie commands the stage for ninety straight minutes without intermission. He’s intense and witty, delivering his lines with sniper-like timing and precision. But, while McCreadie in the lead role certainly shines the brightest, he is supported by the many other exceptional young lads in the ensemble. Damien Hasson also gives a noteworthy performance as the Deltoid and The Rev. There is no mistaking that this is a world-class troop and boasts some serious talent.

A Clockwork Orange. Image by Belinda Strodder
A Clockwork Orange. Image by Belinda Strodder

The music choices are an obvious highlight. At times the music meshes so perfectly with the action unfolding on stage that the songs seem written for the scene. In some parts, it would be hard to imagine a more appropriate soundtrack.Powerful and emotional tracks from the likes of David Bowie, Placebo, and Scissor Sisters, propel the cast along as they engage in a bit of the old ultra-violence, and the odd in-out, in-out.

The more violent action is played out through physical theatre and dance. Yes, dance. And it’s brilliant. Though this might be hard to envision, the violence shown as physical theatre really works; it’s a new take on the story that adds far more than it subtracts, and goes a long way to making the violent acts more palatable. This also means that there is a significant number of half-clothed dancer-fit masculinity on display for the entire duration – convinced yet? Credit for this stroke of genius piece of direction and choreography go to Alexandra Spencer-Jones, with the choreography of the Billy Boy sequence by Hannah Lee.

Overall, A Clockwork Orange is a dynamic production, and is well worth seeing. And don’t let the baff-bags at the door unsettle you too much, it’s a fairly tame handling of the subject matter.